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Racial classification of SS members

In Articles dealing with race issues, SS organisation on June 15, 2009 at 4:31 pm

SS organisation Articles dealing with race issues

Even though almost all the books and articles dealing with the SS always emphasize the strict racial selection and usually back this up by quoting Himmler’s speeches and thoughts regarding the subject – which there are many to choose from, this was not the case in reality although the requirements were tightened over time, only to be stepped down as the war progressed on.

What the SS ideologists were after was the myth of pure, Nordic blood to be rediscovered and revived. This was to be achieved by careful selection and schooling of applicants as well as their spouses. From a contemporary racial perspective, the Allgemeine-SS (and to a lesser extent, the SS-TV and SS-VT) could have been seen as a “Nordic gene pool”. This precise selection of stock and policies favouring large families and simple agrarian life as a counterbalance to the “degenerated urbanism” had its very roots in the mindset of Himmler and Darré. Darré had previously been involved in a Nordicist society called “Nordische Ring“, headed by ministerialrat von Konopacki-Konopath. In its ideology, this organization was a curious mixture of Völkisch romanticism and pseudo-scientific breeding policy. Darré must have assumed most of his Nordicist thoughts from this very society. Like the SS, it was all-voluntary and supported by some leading anthropologists, most notably Hans F.K. Günther (“Rasse-Günther”). Thus, Himmler and Darré were in a difficult situation between the racial utopy and harsh political realities. To encourage the growth of the SS – especially since they competed with the SA of the same potential members  –  they had to make compromises. A good example of this is the creation of Reiter-SS (SS riding organization) by forced incorporation of private riding clubs en massé to the SA and SS. Most of the members of the clubs were accepted straightaway as SS men without thorough racial screening since it was very difficult to recruit skilled horsemen individually. The same procedure was repeated in the inclusion of Brigade Ehrhardt, a former Freikorps unit, to the SS.

It is interesting to note that in theory, the senior leadership corps of the SS were to be seen as an example and source of inspiration. Nevertheless, in practice not many of them had more than 2 to 3 children and most had been married for a long time before joining the SS – and certainly had not chosen their spouses on Nordicist racial grounds – thus their wives avoided the otherwise compulsory medical/racial examination. I consulted a medical student who had studied 1930’s racial typology as a hobby (not in a political way, but out of interest to understand the contemporary thinking in some medical and anthropological circles) and asked him to browse through mugshots of dozens of senior SS officers. Clearly not many of them fulfilled the classic Nordic criteria, using Hans F.K. Günther’s works as a source for definitions. Instead, many exhibited notable Dinaric, Baltid or Armenoid features, good examples of such are Kurt Daluege, Karl Hermann Frank, Karl Fiehler, Christian Weber, Emil Maurice, Adolf Eichmann or Josef Mengele! Even more interesting is the apparent political bias in the racial studies by the in-house race specialist of the SS, Dr. Bruno K. Schultz (RuSHA).

Many of the later racial typologists with non-Germanic/Nordicist emphasis recognize the Armenid/Armenoid type as an important “ingredient” in the taxonomical make-up of Europe. It was certainly known and documented widely already in the 1930s. In spite of that, one can not find any reference to that grouping either in Günther’s nor Schultz’s studies. My theory is that the Armenoid type was politically too easy to connect to the Jews and was considered mainly non-European and was deliberately completely ignored in contemporary German racial school. Actually, usually modern-day human taxonomy forums declared Eichmann mostly Armenoid, some even calling him an “extreme Armenoid”. But let’s see how Eichmann was seen on his day, by the SS doctors.

Racial classification of Adolf Eichmann, from his SS officer file.

Racial classification of Adolf Eichmann, from his SS officer file. Source: Eichmann's SS file, CIA Files regarding Eichmann (publicly available).

Nordic-Dinaric (Nordisch-Dinarisch)? My interpretation is that first of all, the SS preferred declaring as many applicants as Nordic as possible, at least partly. Thus, if there was anything remotely Nordic in a person under scrutiny, even including his temperament, gait and overall posture, it was included in the classification. Dinaric as a typological term was acknowledged by non-Nordicist anthropologists as well but used in a more narrower sense. It seems that if there were clearly other elements than Nordic involved, the second or third most-favourable were chosen. The definitions were expanded so wide that most applicants (those, who are to be chosen) could be fitted in the given categories. Of course my interpretation cannot take into account all possible factors and my knowledge in how the 1930’s German racial researchers – especially those within the SS – thought and observed is very limited. That should then only be taken as a educated guess. For those interested in studying more of this side of the SS – all too often ignored by today’s scholarly historians, keeping in mind the importance of these issues to the organization we are studying – the SS files of individual officers usually contain their medical reports and racial classifications. If they were married during their stay in the SS, the completed medical examination forms should be available for both the SS man and his spouse, as in the case of Eichmann.

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